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Museum of Synthesizer Technology

Martin J. Newcomb

This article is reprinted with the author's kind permission from the book Museum of Synthesizer Technology. See the Bibliography for more information.

The history of the Rhodes Chroma starts in the closing section of ARP's history [see The Rise and Fall of ARP Instruments], this is very fitting as this was the last product that ARP were involved with other than their electric piano. It was produced in 1982 and sold for around £5,000, it contains a 64 note keyboard, it uses one or two oscillators per voice, and has eight or 16 voice polyphony as well as an after touch/velocity sensitive keyboard. The ARP styling is very evident with the Chroma, as it was with many of their other keyboards.

There were 3,000 models made [maybe: see the FAQ], and Philips Dodds the head of the design team is sure the first 50 were best built [Philip Dodds/Tony Williams interview]. That was before they moved from Massachusetts to the CBS Gulbranson plant. There they experienced problems with the CBS staff that they were having to work with, they had a wealth of knowledge in the building of organs, but not Synthesizers, they would not admit to their inability in this field, and insisted on doing things their way. This resulted in problems with the tuning boards, which the CBS team finally admitted were at fault. However this problem was eventually solved.

The 50 keypads on the Chroma represent each of the 50 presets; each keypad also controls the parameter that is printed on it. When a parameter is called up in this way it is then edited via the parameter slider, all editing values are displayed on the small LCD. The range of sounds and the editing capabilities are vast, but like all keyboards this can only be realised once the machine has been mastered.

An expander can be linked to this keyboard to add more sound combinations, but not additional polyphony [Philip Dodds/Tony Williams interview]. The Chroma also has the interface to enable it to be linked to Apple [II] computers, thus enabling the user to utilise multi-track sequencing.